again so philip reed's job was to keep the fires burning hot so they could continue working on monday morning and one of the things we were able to discover through this document is despite his high intelligence, philip reed was illiterate. we can tell this because at the bottom someone has written his name and in between his name isn't x where it was written, that was his mark. that was the only writing he could do. ..
>> i was was talking to you earlier about freedman's village. i have actually discovered a church in arlington, virginia, this is directly descended from the church in freedman's village. the church in freedman's village was called the bell church because the church owned a large brass bell. well, the church in arlington originally was called the old bell church. and actually it's changed names a couple of times since then, but they actually have some of the original equipment from the original bell church in
arlington national cemetery. and the descendants, of course, of freedman's village live all around this area, and that's one of the great things i like talking about this book because when i talk about this book, i learn more and more about washington d.c. i have people come to me and say, well, you know, phillip reid was my great, great, great grandfather. i've actually found some of his descendants in washington. who knows what you will tell me after i complete here, but these are just some of the stories i've been able to find about washington, d.c., and in no way is this a comprehensive, complete version of african-american contributions to this city. every day, every week we're finding out something new. hopefully, somewhere down the line someone will be able to write an entire other book without any of this information
because we're always finding out something new. when barack obama was inaugurated into the white house, the national archives came out with a lot of new material about slaves inside the white house that we hadn't seen. so there's so much history out there. this is just a little piece of it. who knows, maybe some of you will be able to add even more to this growing body of work. so i'm going to stop right now and see if there are any questions, do we have time for questions? maybe one or two questions? >> we're going to handle that after -- >> oh, after the ceremony. okay. well, thank you all for listening. [applause] >> jesse holland is a congressional reporter for the associated press. to find out more, visit
>> well, good afternoon and welcome. i'm ken wine stein, ceo of hudson institute. i'd like to welcome you, welcome our booktv audience, the various other camera crews that are here to the walter and betsy stern conference center here at hudson institute for today's book forum for the new book by our visiting fellow, lee smith, entitled, "the strong horse: power of politics and the clash of arab civilizations." the book has just been published by doubleday. i should say that "the strong horse" is an important new book and also a wonderful read which i urge all of you to buy. for those of you in the audience here, it's available for purchase after the event for $20. for those of you in the tv audience it's available online and in fine bookstores everywhere. now, lee -- who i've gotten to know well over the last few years -- is almost a unique
figure here in washington. he brings a unique perspective to the dialogue on middle east affairs independent of the inside the beltway discussions, prognostications and personality politics. lee is first and foremost a writer and a thinker, and his work has a distinctly literary touch. a real appreciation for the fundamental role of culture and history of politics in the deepest sense. now, lee, who was born in san juan, puerto rico, and has just returned from his native puerto rico but grew up in brooklyn graduated with degrees in english and latin from george washington university before going off to do graduate work in classics at cornell university. his writing has appeared in such publications as grant street and the echo press. and he was editor in chief of the village voice's voice literary sup mr. president as well. he has since gone on to appear
in many of the leading publications in the policy world including he's a frequent contributor to the weekly standard on middle east affairs and writes also for numerous other publications, has written for "the washington post," the new "the new york times," slate, and just about every major publication online and in hard copy you can think of. now, as a native new yorker, i guess, as a puerto rican turned new yorker, i should say, correct myself, lee decided after 9/11 to try to figure out why 9/11 occurred. and rather than doing what most of us in washington decide to do, lee decided to move to the middle east where he spent time in, among other places, cairo, damascus, beirut, tel aviv, the gulf, and his book offers a fascinating account of the people he came to know intimately, their differing views of the arab world, of bin laden, of hamas, saddam hussein, arab liberals and of the u.s.
the characters you come across in this book are fascinating. the salafi professor at the university of cairo, the egyptian free thinker and religious skeptic fascinated by voltaire, lana, the doctor whose feminist aspirations are crushed by the radicalism all around her, the lebanese christian whose new role model was she ran sky and his call for democracy in the middle east. now, these portraits that lee paints, they're quite vivid, are set against the backdrops of the day including the july 2006 hezbollah war. now, lee draws on his knowledge of arabic and muslim history including what might be called muslim prehistory setting the koran in the context to make the case that claims to the contrary notwithstanding made by a slew of intellectuals and by policymakers in both democratic and republican administration, the problems of the middle east,
he argues, have little to do with israel, the u.s. or the west in general. instead, he argues, the real problem as he sees it within the politics of the arab world is the notion, legitimacy that force is given within those politics, and lee will do a far better job of presenting his own argument in a minute, and after lee speaks we have the real honor of hearing from men who know the washington policy world and the world of arab politics quite well. we will first hear from elliot abrams who served as senior directer for democracy in human rights and deputy national security adviser handling middle east affairs in the george w. bush administration. he also served in the ronald reagan administration as assistant secretary of state for international organizations, assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian organizations where i actually interned for him in the summer of 1984 and latin american
affairs as well. and he has served, i'm proud to say he's an alumni of numerous organizations including our own, he was a senior fellow here at hudson institute in the 1990s before going on to become president of the ethics and foreign policy organization. elliot is currently senior fellow on middle east studies at the council for foreign relations here in washington. our other speaker is ambassador jeffrey feltman who is assistant secretary of state for the bureau of dip plomatic affairs. given the focus on it in this book, prior to his assignment in lebanon, he headed the coalition provisional authority's office in iraq serving simultaneously as deputy regional coordinator for the cpa's northern area. from 2001 until 2003, ambassador feltman served as u.s. consulate general in jerusalem first as
deputy principle officer, then acting principle officer, and during his long and distinguished career in the foreign service which began in 1986, he also served in tel aviv and tunis, he studied air back at the university of -- arabic. i want to thank our distinguished commentators for being so willing to share their insights and also for being willing to take questions from the audience. so without further ado, let me pass the floor to lee smith. >> thanks very much, ken. and thanks to all of you for coming today. thanks to, thanks to my friends who i see in the audience some of whom i thanked in the acknowledgments to the book, but i'll thank you again from the lebanese contingent like some of my american friends like andrew, matt, samantha. i also want to thank my colleagues at hudson, the board
scholars and staff, and especially today's moderator, hudson's ceo ken weinstein. thanks for your support and advice, thanks for your loyalty and friendship and especially your great good humor. i'm also greatly indebted to my two fellow panelists not just for agreeing to participate in order to make this an interesting event, it is decidedly an honor and privilege to share this panel not least because their efforts in the middle east have played such a signal role in american policy over the last nine years and also in my thinking about the region. it was, as i write in the book, it was a great time to be an american in the region. it was a privilege to be represented by a u.s. government that had taken the side of freedom. i lived in bay -- beirut during the hay day of what we've called the -- [inaudible] for a global democracy strategy and assistant secretary feltman when he was the u.s. ambassador
to lebanon, and many of them still do, as do i. thus, they are among the book's constitute lair spirits, a designation from which they may wish to distance themselves, but there you have it. i want to be brief not just i'd prefer to have you read the book, but largely because i'm as eager to listen to mr. feltman and mr. abrams describe the current course of u.s. policy. after all, they've labored in the field while i've merely observed, and yet it was while watching u.s. strategy that provided much of the impetus for this book. so "the strong horse" is partly about regional transformation as well as transformation in my own thinking about the region. in particular, why did these very good policies not succeed as spended, or why has democracy not caught on in the middle east to date? the convenient explanation is that these policies were, indeed, the right ones.
that is, supporting the democratic aspirations of arabs and standing against both islamist militants and the region's repressive regimes was correct. the problem, rather, was that the bush administration failed in um presenting them. implementing them. no doubt the previous white house made many errors, some of them deadly to americans as well as arabs. one ringingly specific piece of criticism is that the americans should have provided more security and earlier on than they did. my more general criticism is this, however, that we should have taken the arabs' fears more seriously. we americans believed we were bringing democracy to the region while discounting as a far-fetched conspiracy theory the long held conviction of many arabs that someday the americans would come to play divide and conquer, that someday the arabs would set each other at each other's throats. as it turned out, that's exactly what happened. of course, it wasn't america's
hand that blew up mosques in iraq. zarqawi wasn't on washington's payroll when he slaughtered shia it wasn't the bush administration that conducted a campaign of terror in beirut assassinating remember nice politicians, journalists and civil society act visits and the -- activists and the u.s. department of state sent no journalists or bloggers to prisons in syria, egypt, saudi arabia and elsewhere around the middle east where they were subject to torture, rape and murder. it was arabs who did this to other arabs. it was precisely this vicious political culture the americans believed that had nurtured a hot house flower like osama bin laden. these regimes were so relentlessly cruel that the only option they had for expression was a version of islam as bloodty-minded as the regimes
themselves, so the americans would give the arabs another choice: democracy, freedom. by speaking over the heads of arab leaders and targeting the worst regimes starting with saddam hussein. as a columnist put it describing the chaos of postinvasion iraq circa 2005-2006, the arabs thought the problem was colonialism, zionism, the americans, etc., and the americans thought the problem was saddam's regime. the problem, however, as it turned out was arab society itself. on reflection and from a distance, the paradox is obvious. a political culture where bin ladennism is not the exception, but the political norm does not easily lend itself to remedy, never mind transformation. and that, in short, is the summit of my book. the issues are some of the issues that have set the arabs against themselves, a clash of arab civilizations, clashes between sects, between arab regimes and their own people, the regimes against their
domestic rivals and insurgencies, clashes between arab regimes themselves between and within families and even inside the arab individual. perhaps most importantly there is the clash between world views. on one hand, there is the democratic and progress i have trend -- progressive trend embodied in arab liberalism, and on the other the bloody and violent current represented by far too many of the region's seminal figures from saddam and bin laden, czar caw by among others. however, while i do believe there is a real clash between world views, arab world views for the future and destiny of the region, unlike many i do not believe there is anything like a civil war in the arabic-speaking middle east where the forces of liberalism pitted against the armies of resistance. wars are waged between men with guns, and their outcome depends
on how many, which way and at whom those guns are pointed, and here the liberals, the moderates as a minority of unarmed prophets are at a distinct disadvantage. i hardly mean to down play the role of ideas or the significance of the men and women who advocate those ideas for my heros are all men and women who have taken courageous stands, positions that would seem unimaginably reckless to most of us against the region's political and cultural mainstream. a young egyptian inte lek ken referred to whose life ambition is to translate all of -- [inaudible] into arabic. a cairo doctor who wants all the free comes that america has to offer but with in her country, her city, and her language. a syrian father of three who while watching president bush's second inaugural thanked god for the leader of the free world who was, in his words, the only man who cared about the arabs, and
then there's my friend, a former lebanese basketball star who explained he folks those who love life, but the party of life will fight to keep it, and they will fight for it. but they won't win. not right now, anyway. for at the moment at least the region is in the hands of those with guns, those who prize death. that said, i should say something about the title. the phrase, you'll recall, is osama bin laden's. people will by nature like the strong horse. arabs understand only force, an idea, unfortunately and incorrectly, attributed to the bush administration. the fact is that throughout history most of mankind has understood force. those lucky few who are fortunate enough to be able to live their political lives free of the fear of violence are largely concentrated in the capitals of contemporary western europe and along the east and west coasts of the united states.
the inhabitants of the arabic-speak ising middle east are not so fortunate. to say that lebanon's held at gunpoint by an armed gangs and that egyptian rights activists are typically thrown in prison and tourtured, that region y'all intellectuals have often been targeted in the name of arab nationalism, a corporatist ideology is not to say that arabs only understand force, but that violence is a central factor in arab political life, and it is impossible to understand the region without taking this into account. one more thing about the book's title. "the strong horse" not only punishes his enemies, he also rewards or and protects his friends sometimes by punishing their enemies. this seems to me an entirely unobjectionable notion because it is derived there the most
basic principle of human emotions, to protect those who you love from harm. bizarrely, these principles are too often neglected by our policy establishment across the political spectrum. a culture that, among others, has counseled engagement with theirs who have made their enmity with our allies clear coming at the expense of our friends and perhaps potential friends like many of the men and women today venturing their physical safety, their lives on the streets of tehran. policies that two against the natch -- go against the natural course of affairs, warming to enemies and freezing out allies, are destined to fail. socrates reminds us that a dog knows well enough to distinguish friends from enemies, so showshed our policy establishment including policymakers, analysts, researchers and journalists. moreover, such notions go against the american grain. the u.s. is a strong horse, in
fact, it is the strong horse not merely on account of our military might or the productiveness of our economy. indeed, it is one of the great miscongress senses -- misconceptions held not only in the region, but here in the u.s. that it's impossible to distinguish between the values that a culture holds dear and the goods that such a society produces and so are those that believe technology will help the arabs catch up to mod everybodity -- modernity. they make the modern world so attractive that young arabs will give anything for a ticket in the globalization sweepstakes. but this is all a mistake for the thing itself, the ideas and values that give rise to our technological ingenuity, economic dynamism and the goods we toss off whether it is information technology, military hardware or pop culture. thus, we sell short not only arabs for failing to catch up, but also ourselves. we sell short our core ideas and
values, reason, impair schism, the belief in the individual, and forget the amount of bloodshed on behalf of these ideas that has allowed us to live our political lives. by which i mean man at his most fully human living among other men free of violence. our strength can have no other source than these ideas, these values. now i'll turn the floor over to my co-panelists, two men who to my mind represent these values, american values, in our foreign policy as well as anyone. [applause] >> thank you. first, i want to echo what ken weinstein said. i have recently finished reading lee's book, and it is a really, really interesting book, and i want to urge you to buy it. this is the important thing.
ken did not say read it, he said buy it. whether you read it is up to you, but buy it. [laughter] that's the critical advice. right. buy many. it's a pleasure to be here with ken and with lee and with jeff feltman who i think i came to know mostly as ambassador to lebanon where i think he provided a model of what good an american ambassador can do if he understands how to use the resources and reputation of the united states and of the department of state fully. that isn't the last nice thing i'm going to say. [laughter] i do want to -- [laughter] >> the exit's right here. >> i do want to, i want to divide my remarks, which will be brief, into four categories, and it won't cover the whole spectrum. but human rights, iran,
syria/lebanon, israel/palestine. and talk about this past year. i was going to say and leave it at that that i think the u.s. record many the last year, the obama administration record has been disappointing on human rights. there hadn't been enough said about human rights and what has been said has not been said with enough oomph. we talk to egyptian democracy activists, and they have the sense that the american administration is not doing much for them. and if one looks at things like the budget for the promotion of human rights and democracy, in egypt it has in some important ways been cut in the last year. i'm not aware, although being on
the outside i shouldn't necessarily be aware yet, of what the administration is planning for the next egyptian elections which given that we are at or near the end of the mubarak period will be very important elections. and what we will try to do to make them as free as possible is quite important. but i should add here, i throw this back to lee. and i hope that we get a chance to talk about it a little bit because he said in the book, and you said just now, you know, this was a great period to be in the middle east. this was a great moment to be in the middle east when the american government was seen to be promoting freedom and democracy. but later in the book you seem to be saying this was a mistake, that the problem was misanalyzed in washington, that the problem
was quite deep in arab society. you said just now the vicious political culture, the problem is arab society itself. i want to ask you to combine all of that. if the policy was wrong, then why was it so great to be in, to be there when the policy was being promoted? on iran, obviously, i'm going to have trouble covering this subject in two minutes, but i would say that i think the administration had an iran policy coming this, and that iran policy probably would have been carried out had the election gone differently in june. but for complicated reasons of its own, the regime in iran stole the election and gave rise to a potent opposition movement whose activities impress us
really every week now as we watch them and as we watch the risks they take. my criticism would be, and i'm really not sure quite what american policy is now, policy seems to be okay, we won't engage. engagement, original idea, has been put aside due to the events of june and since. but there's no new policy that's really been elaborated. trying to get sanctions in the security council is a tool, a very important tool, but it isn't a policy, and it also doesn't look as if it's going to work because of the chinese. so what is the policy? here i would go back to lee's concept of "the strong horse," and i would just make one criticism. i have been very unhappy at the comments by american military
leaders, secretary gates and admiral mullen, and by the way, this is not a criticism of the obama administration, this is a criticism of the american military because this happened in 2008 as well. i have been very critical of their saying what a catastrophe it would be if military force were used against iran. i don't understand that as a negotiating tactic. even if they believe it, i don't understand why they would say it. and thereby reduce the pressure for a negotiated settlement that the people running iran would logically feel. now, more recently general petraeus, most recently general petraeus made a kind of countervailing statement in which, cent come commander, in which he said, you know, we have plans for everything, and we can carry out those plans, too, when it comes to iran. that is a much more sensible
message to be sending to the ayatollahs. third, syria and lebanon, a subject very close to jeff's heart as it is to lee's and to mine. the policy is not 100% clear to me, again, sitting on the outside. there is, i think, a great dual of continuity here. it isn't necessarily, that's not meant to be a heart warming remark because i think bush administration policy became too soft or was too soft on syria, and i think obama administration policy is as well. to put it a different way, the syrians have been pursuing for years now a policy of repression , vicious repression at home, interfering in iraq and we have within the last six months general odierno reminding us that interference continues, the alliance with iran and the
arms of hezbollah, the keeping of the palestinian terrorist group headquarters in damascus. after the killing of -- the united states imposed certain additional sanctions on syria, and we removed our ambassador. but since then there's really been just about no price that syria has paid for continuing these policies. the israeli government is to blame for this in part because it was the negotiation commenced by prime minister olmert that really opened the door for syria which had been quite isolated. isolated from not only the united states, but western europe. but the israelis opened that door, i think mistakenly. in the last year, not only have the syrians not paid a price for their conduct, but we have begun a kind of policy of engagement.
we've had four or five or six high-level visits including senator mitchell more than once, and engagement is neither good nor bad, it depends on what it produces. in the case of syria, i would argue it has produced literally nothing. nothing positive, anyway. the negative is not seen only interior, but, of course, in lebanon where the march 14th group won the election but could not put a government together for something like six months and now has a government, but isn't is able to govern the country because of the power of the march 8th forces relying on syria and iran. this is, obviously, a tragic thing for lebanon, the reassertion of syrian power. and here's another case where i think the united states has not,
under two presidents, has not been forceful enough in dealing with the syrians. if you go back a few years when the united states was suffering significant casualties in iraq, just about all those jihadis were going through da damascus international airport. so, again, this is not a criticism of current policy, it's a criticism of u.s. policy for the last few years and up to the present. finally, on the israeli/palestinian question, i've written a lot about this, and i shouldn't go on at much length. i think the fundamental error being made today is the same error that was made toward the end of the bush administration which is the focus, one might even say the sole focus of u.s. policy is negotiations, getting a negotiation going. but the aftermath of annapolis,
i think, demonstrated that if the conditions aren't right, those negotiations won't succeed. the administration is devoting itself now to getting the palestinians and israelis to the table. it may get them to the table. the united states has a great deal of clout. but then what? i think it almost inconceivable that they will actually under current conditions reach an agreement, sign an agreement for reasons we can get into, but i think they're pretty far apart. i do not buy the notion they're just an inch apart, and i don't see the ability to compromise the differences right now. i think there should have been over the last 10 or 15 years, but let's go just back to the period after the death of air taft -- arafat, i think there should have been for the last five years anyway much more concentration on building the
institutions of a palestinian state in the west bank since the takeover of gaza by hamas. you have to say just in the west bank. but i think there is progress. there could, i think, be a great deal more progress given the leadership on both sides. i don't think the reliance in american diplomacy on negotiations as likely -- let me rephrase that, it is sometimes said we need to get them to the negotiating table, and if you just rely on building palestinian institutions, that's a formula for getting to say 50 years from now. i would argue that repeated efforts at negotiations that fail actually will take a lot longer than steady progress on the ground. with that, i guess i turn it
back to ken? >> thank you, lee, for those characteristically insightful remarks, and i'm sure ambassador feltman is grateful because he gets to keep his job. >> thank you, hudson institute, for inviting me to participate. it's rather intimidating for me to be sitting between, you know, two great minds like this and two very prolific commentators. and i'll return the compliments because certainly when i was ambassador in lebanon, it was extremely important to know that we had the support of the white house for what we were trying to do in working with the lebanese, and elliot abrams made sure that was case and what was happening in lebanon was getting out accurately which lee smith always did, so i very much appreciate being included here today even if i find it somewhat intimidating between these two gentlemen. let me mention, you know, sort
of u.s. priorities in the region under the current administration and comment on some of the individual issues. you know, yes, you know, we are trying to pursue a comprehensive peace in the middle east. we're supporting a secure and southern iraq, we're trying to secure a resolution to all of our differences with iran, its nuclear ambitions as well as destabilizing role in the region, destabilizing role in lebanon and iraq with the palestinians, et. we're try -- etc. we're trying to manifest president obama's commitment to building partnerships with the citizens of the region on behalf of more prosperous, participatory and pluralistic societies, and what this means is, yes, working on democracy, human rights and economic development. and finally, addressing the grave security and development challenges in yemen, and this is not what happened after december 5th, it's something that very early on we were asked to start
doing policy reviews on yemen, so i would list -- those are not the only things we're working on, but i would list those as priorities in the region. and, of course, the approach to trying to achieve these priorities is, i would say it is partnership, it's working with allies, it's building new allies, it's trying to reach out. you've heard, of course, we've talked a lot about president obama's speech in cairo, but not only in cairo. president obama has been determined to change the tone of the u.s. relationship with muslims around the world and particularly in the middle east. now, the issues that we're all talking about up here are difficult ones and are not going to be changed overnight. with a few, you know, they're not going to be changed by a speech, by a few meetings or a few months' positive time. but we have opened up new potential for cooperation that did not exist before.
now, let me talk about some of the individual issues that lee and elliot have mentioned. middle east peace. i said our goal was to achieve a comprehensive peace in the middle east, that means peace agreements between israel and the palestinians, between israel and syria and between israel and lebanon. but the two-state solution to the israelis and the palestinians, we believe, is key. and we're working on this in three different areas right now. one is the negotiating, the negotiating track. you've, elliott has mentioned why he questions whether this should be our priority right now. it is one of our priorities. it's not been easy, and in part we did not really have a full year. the netanyahu government was not prepared to start talking to us. there had been elections in israel, netanyahu's government
needed to come together, so it was in may when the netanyahu government was ready to start talking to us about this, and the palestinians waited until august, after august when after the congress in beth he bethlehem. so it's not been a full year we've been able to engage, but do remember that a year ago the israelis and pal palestinians we just coming out of a war. and now both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution, and let's hope we can move ahead to the negotiating track, but it's only one of three that we're looking at as interlinked going together and mutually reinforcing. second area is security. palestinians need security, the israelis need security, but the palestinian security performance, a good palestinian security performance is absolutely essential to being able to move ahead on the negotiating track toward a peace track.
and the palestinians need to feel secure as well, so i would put security as a second track. there's been some success, there's been, frankly, quite a bit of success when you talk about security in the west bank. the third track is exactly what elliott was talking about, the institutional development -- you can call it ground-up or whatever -- supporting the prime minister's plan to build palestinian institutions that are worthy of the name, that can take, that can mean that the palestinian state when it comes intoing into being is a functioning, accountable state in which the citizens feel their needs are being met and in which they'd participating. these three things, we believe, have to go together. if you, if you neglect the security track, it's obvious why it doesn't work. if you neglect the institutional track, it's, you know, it means that you're creating conditions for what could very well be a failed state even if you succeed on negotiations. but if you leave the negotiations out, if you don't have a process, then there's
very little incentive or interest for the palestinians to be working on those other two tracks, the ground-up approach. so we see these three work withing together -- working to get back into negotiations we don't think serves anyone except the extremists. on iraq, our strategic goal is an iraq that is sovereign, stable and self-reliant. now, you've read a lot about the transition because we are going through a transition, a transition from a military-led focus to a civilian-led focus. and believe me, those of us in the state department know how closely this transition is going to be watched and how important the responsibilities are on our shoulders of getting this transition right. there's been a lot of blood and treasure that this country has committed to iraq over the
years, and we in the state department and the civilian agencies must be up to the challenge of managing that transition through a civilian-led relationship. there's a lot of debate in the papers now about the upcoming iraq elections on march 7th. i would say what this debate shows, you know, are these civilians disqualified, was that commission, did it have legitimacy to try to disqualify these sunni candidates? all of this debate shows that elections matter in iraq. i think it's basically a positive sign of how important the democratic process has been in iraq that you see a debate that's this strong in iraq today. on iran, you know, this is -- i think we can probably all
agree -- probably the biggest challenge that we face in the region. and the question is how, how does the international community work together to show that if a country openly defies its international obligations, refuses to play by the rules, how do you show that country that there are consequences for its, for its behavior? now, the united states, in fact, has looked at an engagement as one way to address the diplomatic challenge that iran poses to us. and let me say to engage does not mean to embrace. to engage means using a different tool in your diplomatic tool box along with the others that you may be doing to try to fix a problem. but i would argue that there's been a benefit of the president's commitment to engage, the president's demonstrated the evidence the president has used in trying to
reach out to the iranians which is that we are not seen as blocking a diplomatic resolution to the problems of iran. the focus is much more internationally on iran, and iran's behavior now and much less on, well, you know, was there a chance for a peaceful resolution and the united states somehow just didn't open that door, didn't even knock on that door? without doubt iran's response to the p5 plus 1 diplomacy has not been encouraging. the meetings in geneva on october 1st looked to be a promising start, but that, in fact, the iranians in fact, haven't pursued that. it looks as though they're pursuing belligerence, not cooperation at this point. but i think one thing to everyone sides is that -- emphasize is that simply because the iranians have not responded
to a u.s. offer for greater engagement doesn't mean we've simply stopped and waited. we're going to say, okay, we're going to wait a little bit longer. they haven't engaged. that's not what's happening at all. at all times all options are being examined, consultations are happening with partners, but there's a much greater emphasis on the multilateral aspects vis-a-vis what we do about showing iran there's consequences for simply ignoring the rules of the game they're playing. talk a minute about the egypt, elliott's right, the lebanon portfolio is certainly close to my heart. i feel, i feel blessed that i was able to spend the time that i did in lebanon. the, president obama when he came into office did, in fact,
offer to engage syria as well. i have traveled to damascus a couple times, something is i never thought i would do, certainly, in 2006. senator mitchell has traveled a couple of times, we've had a syrian visit here in washington. i'll just say these are tough discussions that we're having, that we're having with the syrians. what's different is we're now talking not just about the syrians, we're talking to the syrians, but believe me, we're talking to the syrians about all the issues that we've always talked to the syrians on. so these new lines of communication do not mean by any means that we are somehow putting aside our concerns about syrian policy or that we're somehow looking to suddenly sell out our lebanese partners. the message about not selling out lebanon or our iraqi partners has been made clear to the syrians both publicly and privately. but i, you know, i know lebanon
well enough to admit honestly that our friends in lebanon, you know, continue to have questions about this and continue to ask, continue to ask us about this. on egypt, you know, our dialogue we egypt covers the full range, covers the full range of issues. at every opportunity this administration has engaged egyptian government on democracy, political reform and human rights issues. when president mubarak visited the white house in the summer, it was the president who told the media afterwards, yes, in fact, president obama had raised the democracy and human rights issues with him. there are definitely still areas of concern, and, you know, we watch very closely, for example, and raise with the egyptian government the case of the bloggers that were detained over the last few days that went to try to pay con doll lenses in --
condolences in what was a sectarian crime. on democracy and human rights, and i'll close with this, you know, the secretary's met with representatives of civil society, with democracy activists on basically all of her trips that she's taken in the region. i've been with her on these trips, and she has -- and i've seen her stress repeatedly at these events that it is the foreign policy of the united states and the obama administration to promote, support and defend democratic participation and progress including in egypt. it's not because we want all the other countries to be like us, but it's because we all want, we want all people to have the opportunity to decide for themselves how to live their lives. elliott mentioned the egyptian elections coming up this year for parliament, and we believe it's in the best interest of egypt to work toward a more transparent and democratic political system that protects
human rights and freedoms under the rule of law. and i would like to close, then, with a quote from president obama from the cairo speech. that was delivered on june 4th. the president said, quote, i do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things, the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed. confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice. government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people. the freedom to live as you choose. these are not just american ideas, they are human rights, and that's why we will support them everywhere. thank you. [applause] >> [inaudible] we'll have lee respond to remarks, and then we'll turn it over. >> well, i mean, first of all, elliott, to partly answer your questions, revolutions are exciting things, and to be there on the ground and see all of
these things happening, as i do explain in the book, i think that a lot of us got carried away, and that's certainly an easy thing, that's a thing that happens in the middle east all the time. i mean, this is a place where lots of americans travel to to articulate and express oftentimes some very extreme emotions that are entirely out of place in a country like the united states. however, in the middle east whether they are fans of the resistance and they want to visit hezbollah areas and collect hezbollah key rings and t-shirts, on the other hand, there are people, there are others -- and i myself was incredibly enthused about this, and i think that's part of it. the other part -- i guess, i don't think those policies were wrong. i think they are extremely good policies, and i don't really believe it's the fault of the bush administration for not implementing them correctly. i think, though, that there are
certain deep issues that we didn't quite understand, and i think the issues that, the main issue we didn't quite understand was for the kind of revolution because that is precise -- i think that's precisely what the bush administration was calling for, a cultural, societal and political revolution, and the grounds weren't entirely prepared for that yet, and that takes a lot of groundwork. again, i'm not blaming the bush administration for not having done the proper groundwork, but maybe we all should have had a better idea there's a lot of things that need to happen, and one more hinge that i'll say is a point that i do make in the book as well, in the different places that were, perhaps, more ready for this kind of transformation. for instance, lebanon where, you know, i mean, lebanon certainly has at least the kernel of a democratic policy if not more. and we certainly said a lot of the right things. assistant secretary feltman, when he was am ambassador thered
you, elliott, the way you stood up for lebanon was exemplary. however, i think that without protecting that lebanese democracy, that small kernel from the campaign of terror waged by both the syrian regime and the iranian regime, in other words, if we weren't ready to use strong horse tactics of our own, it was going to be a very vulnerable and very fragile experiment. and we saw secretary rice at the time pointing, pointing every time the syrians did something saying, we know you're involved, we know something's going on. which is to fine we know you're involved, but to say we know you're involved and to not do anything about it, to not exact a price for that violence against our allies and friends, i think that was a serious problem. so i don't know if that's an entirely adequate answer because i think you're probably right. you've found one of the, i wouldn't say contradictions in the book, but one of the, you know, one of the dilemmas that,
you know, i'm still trying to think through. >> should we -- [inaudible] why don't we turn it to the audience for questions. let's begin with directer of hudson center on islam democracy and the future of the muslim world in the back. >> i won't have to introduce myself, thanks, ken. i want to offer a comment which is essentially praise of the book. and i lament elliott's suggestion, yes, go ahead and buy it, but also read it. [laughter] some of the people who have to read it or should read it are people in the region as well as people in the united states. and i just, there's been in the latter part of this panel a large discussion of specific policies, but i want to commend it for some other things which
are, and which are more prevalent in the book which are it's an account of various views that have been taken of the region which lee, i think, successfully demolishes in a number of instances. perhaps the most important is the notion somehow that the problems of the region are our fault or someone else's fault rather than the region itself and the culture that has prevailed there. and i think that's really very, very important because the opposite view is frequently taken, and that does lead, i think, to partially a very false view of the region, but also a false view of policy because the notion is if we're responsible for the problems, then the our alaskas can fix -- actions can fix them, and that relieves the region itself of the responsibility for facing its
own dilemmas. and that's why i suggest that it would be rather important for people in the region to read it as well. i do want to, though, ask a version of the question that elliott raised which is this, you paint actually a rather bleak picture of the capacity of the region to deal with its own problems. and especially by means, the means we've been trying to pursue. and i wonder in your last remarks you suggested there was, there was a way to begin more modestly, that is to say with a focus on lebanon, but that that required a very, very serious attempt to be rough -- to put it bluntly -- with syria and iran. but i guess my question is, is that what you're seriously proposing at this point, that
the way to proceed is with, is through more modest efforts on the one hand and with rougher tactics on the other? the other thing i want to observe is not about the book itself, but the discussion that's taking place. and it seems to me that it's been brought out but should be emphasized. a number of the policies of the present administration are continuations of policies of the previous administration. but they are, nonetheless, failures. that is, we have had a policy, for example, with iran we have had a policy of engagement one could say since the summer of 2003 but emphatically since the spring of 2006 when it became the policy to offer negotiations to iran subject to the suspension of uranium enrichment. so we've, we've, we're a long,
we're far along of this path, and it seems to me we've had ample evidence through both administrations that that path is not going to work. and the same thing is true, i think, on, with syria. we have tried a, to be more engaging, and the results have not been very successful. so thank you very much, and, again, i urge everyone to buy and read lee's book. >> thank you. >> why don't you respond. >> i'll respond to the first part then if the two of you would like to take the second part. i don't think that the policies are so modest. definitely rougher tactics. for instance, if you look at iraq right now, i think it's very hard to break down different countries in the region and work -- look, even if you were able to look at lebanon or look at iraq, i'll stick to
those two countries in particular and work on the different issues in those two countries, you have a lot of regional actors who have a vested interest in what's going on. right now in iraq it seems that the syrians and saudis have made some sort of deal along with the iranians over prime minister al-maliki. so how do you sort of close down this one society and say now we're going to look at lebanon? what you need to do is play fairly rough with neighbors like the syrians, like the iranians, perhaps the saudis who have generally been a fairly positive influence in lebanon, up until recently at any rate. so i think these things are very, very difficult. again, i don't think they're modest, i think it's extremely ambitious, and that, i guess, would be, that would be one of my issues. if we understand exactly how ambitious, how ambitious these ideas are, again, you can't just
unity. obviously that did not include syria and iran but i am large, there was their reaction to the assassination of rafik hariri brought together the vietnamese but also brought together the international community so you have the lebanese in the international immunity all working in the same direction or a short terry mac. the bush administration working with the french had already put in place the foundations for an international consensus regarding the need for syria to withdraw from lebanon before rafik hariri's assassination. it started in the summer and fall of 2004 but that dramatic event of rafik hariri brought other countries into play, brought an international consensus into play. unfortunately the international consensus did not last. as elliot said the israelis open the door to reengage with syria when they had their negotiations
with the turks. when president sarkozy looked at policy for the middle east, he made a dramatic shift from its predecessor. he decided that it was worth trying to engage syria and try to see if you could embrace syria in a way that would moderate syrian behavior and of course more recently you up at the saudi-- which i think has a number of routes but i agree with you part of the discussion has been, probably been on iraq. so you end up at a point where we were the ones isolated. it was no longer syria being isolated. it was the united states in isolated soy think this administration decided that engagement, engagement is something we need to try and i will emphasize engage my does not mean as i said before engaged is not need to embrace. engagement does not mean endorsement of certain policies. engagement does not mean that we
love everything you are doing. it is simply a different tool to try to achieve that means-- so far the results have been modest at best but this also hasn't been something that we have been doing that long. >> i entirely agree with you that engaging someone is not the same as embracing them however i would also ask, why aren't we acting, and maybe we are and please correct me, why are we acting with the conviction that diplomacy is not necessarily the opposite of war when certainly it seems, or we seem to believe this president came to office campaigning on the idea that we are going to use real diplomacy not just military action. why can't all of these tools be part of the same portfolio so why we are working on engaging the syrians, the syrians certainly do this.
they are willing to sit down with anyone while they are blowing them up at different points. i mean, why aren't we using-- why can't we use pressure on them as well as engage them diplomatically? >> i would argue that we are. i would argue for example there has been renewal of executive orders. we are trying to use, as i said, we are trying to use as many tools in the diplomatic toolbox as we possibly can. >> is there a follow-up on this specific issue? please identify yourself. >> thank you so much. i am with the turkish daily newspaper. i would like to follow-up on the syrian issue. does iran and syria are neighbors to turkey, in which
prime minister's government wants to accomplish problems with all of turkey's neighbors. with that, i would just like to understand the previous administration and also the current administration's approach to the syrian angle. i doubt that the turkish officials including the turkish president and also the turkish prime minister has expressed to us that their engagement with syria has been widely appreciated by the bush administration. maybe they didn't start because they were against it, but as did negotiations with israel went forward, they actually thanked turkey that they started this engagement with syria. that is one. so i would like to ask you how it was during the bush
administration. during that administration you emphasize strongly that engage my does not need embrace meant. how do you see the turkish position now on syria? do you think that their engagement means the embracement of the government? thank you. >> the bush administration did not favor at the time it began syrian israeli negotiations because they let syria out of the box. we had carefully constructed for syria. syria was in that period if you go back or example to the number of european foreign minister visits over a 12 month period, very, very small. syria was quite isolated and the price it paid for the break in
this isolation was zero. that is mostly a criticism of the government of israel. much less so a criticism of the government of turkey in the sense that it to governments want to negotiate and they ask you to facilitate i think you are purple billets he is a great deal less than if you are the author of this engagement. there was no., there was nothing to be gained by criticizing the turkish role and i don't believe the united states ever did criticize the turkish role. the problem i would say was trying to figure out what israel or the cause of peace or the syrian population or the lebanese population or the iraqi population gained from this and i think the answer is nothing. >> this administration, any
administration very recognizes the fact that turkey is a significant player in the region, so turkey's interest in the region obviously derived from turkey's location and as you said he neighbors to syria, iraq and iran. we very much appreciate the partnership that has developed between the united states and turkey on a number of these issues. the turkish relationship with iraq for example we think is an extremely important element of iraq's reintegration into the region. i said one of the obama administration's policy goals, time consuming as it is, is a comprehensive peace in the middle east. comprehensive peace in the middle east has to include a peace agreement he trained israel and-- if they believe that turkish mediation will help restart the negotiation, we are
all for it. it looks very difficult at this point. we have talked a lot both to the syrians and the israelis. senator mitchell, as he said in his own television interview recently has traveled to anchor and met with official and talked with the foreign minister. it is not that easy to restart peace negotiations but we believe they must be restarted at some point into the extent the parties would wish to rely on turkey's good offices again we would he supported. >> i remind everybody to keep comments brief as we do have a significant number of questions. [inaudible] it is good to see you. i think you should be feeling good about what you and the administration did in iraq or go to die iraq is moving forward.
as more political parties are in newspapers and free television than all of the air of nations combined so you should feel good and i feel good because my son was in office in iraq. i am surprised that mr. smith didn't mention anything about the israeli government, the biggest opponent to the war. mr. abrams, the administration, mr. obama and secretary clinton, secretary clinton have been saying we should treat arabs with respect and i agree. we should treat people with respect. my questions are is, my question is, how do you treat arabs with respect while we are supporting
the most absolute dictatorships that treat people with utter disrespect? >> a year ago i might have had to answer that question. [laughter] this is the time when you get up on the elevator like the national association or something. it is not an easy question obviously as you yourself know. because we believe that all of these government should have the respect of their people. all of these governments that we are talking about should earn the respect of the people. people should feel the governments are accountable to them and people should feel they have a chance to participate in public life and they have a
chance to speak in their lives and they can affect the composition of the governments their election. sadly, many of these governments fall short of that ideal. most of them fall short of that ideal. when we talk about treating arabs with respect, we are talking about the language we use to address the arab world four we are talking about thinking about not just what we do but how we do it when we are talking about using for example the tool that the bush administration put into the bureau i now had, the middle east partnership initiative, when the user to promote civil society how do we do it? do we do it saying washington has the idea of how you should do it or do we talk to the civil society people and we are increasingly giving grants to civil society organizations across the arab world so that they themselves can help direct
how best they do it. it is trying to treat people at all levels in a spirit of partnership. it is not always reciprocated and you don't always say publicly might-- what may feel good to say publicly. i really need to beat up on this guy publicly but it doesn't achieve that much so we are trying to speak respectfully and when appropriately behind closed doors about where we see the best way forward to building participatory democracy to providing opportunities for civil society to emerge and things like that are co-these are not easy questions. >> mohammed with voice of america. is just feltman what what with the united states do to deal with the upcoming elections,
which everybody thought would pass the power from mubarak to his son, and for mr. smith, what kind of-- do you envision for the obama administration to keep the u.s. strong? >> on the egyptian elections, you have got parliamentary councils this year and residential elections the year after. we believe that it is in the interest of egypt that the electoral process be opened up, that it be more inclusive, that our people be able to participate. the groups that are willing to use democratic means only to rely on democratic means only ie
don't rely on any kind of violence should have the opportunity to participate. we hope the egyptian government will use domestic observers, international observers to help in this process. believe me, this is a subject of much discussion between us and the egyptians right now. >> yeah, i would say there has been some speculation. especially with the president's speech at the u.n. where he was talking about balance of power, the balance of power munitions will not hold so i think there has been some speculation and before the president came to office that he would reduce the american profile around the region. i think one of the things we are finding is it is a very difficult thing to do and i think we are finding is particularly in yemen. i am curious, what kind of place
did yemen occupy in the last administration? has this, is an absolute surprise, the yemen issue? >> just for a minute on that. go back to the uss kohl. yetman has been very much a matter of attention in the united states government for the better part of a decade, and if you look at things like the visits of the president or the millennium challenge account budget for yemen or usaid in yemen we have had a lot of discussions with the government of yemen and a lot of efforts to get that government to respond better to the needs of the yemeni people, and i would say it is just been up and down and up and down. there have been moments where things look like they were on the right road. for example after the election,
which was by local standards, meaning standards of the arab world, a pretty good election. someone was allowed to a protest president solace and he was not jailed after the election but then there were the corruption problems, just one of the many problems. the jail escapes made it clear that either the government was not keeping its word or were simply unable to do so and meanwhile, particularly in the latter years of the bush administration, it became increasingly apparent that our interests, or let me put it this way, our rarities and those in the yemeni government were not the same because our irony was terrorism but the priority of the president was not surprisingly himself, which is
to say dealing with the south, dealing with this goofy rebellion, so you couldn't be sure for example where resources are going to be put, let i think what the obama administration is now finding is this is an extremely difficult problem for us to solve. partly because of the different rarities of the government of yemen and partly because it does not have certain capabilities we wish it had and it cannot be developed overnight, so this is going to be a problem tt they have the whole time in office. >> steve from manchester trade. i always feel that-- should be
any book of heroes. but the economists wrote of somebody, one article and i never saw it again, someone in iraq who had the nerve after the war to save maybe this should be friendly relations with israel. his two sons were killed, they trash his office and they never heard from him again. a more generic question is, does the obama administration realized what senator fulbright said many years ago to the effect that the u.s. is a weakened power, not nearly as strong as it was years ago. we have new economic, we certainly have lost and we certainly have china and india. most of this discussion of this group is focusing on somehow we have the right to determine these events. some of us believe it is good we talk about human rights but it should not really intervened in the policy and less we have an opportunity to have real influence.
i was one who was pushing u.s. egyptian free trade agreement off the table because we were angry about mubarak's relationship. very simple to take in nigeria and jeni-- not that that has any effect or could the question i would really ask, has anybody really seen a realization either in the bush or the obama administration that maybe we have to talk a little bit quieter and we don't have the same shtick we used to have been so on in terms of the fact that we have less power in the world then we may have had even during the russian. not that certainly immediately after the russian downfall? thank you very much. >> he is still to a figure in active politics as far as i know. and, i will answer, i will give
my answer to the second question and then i guess we can go down the line or whoever else wants to take on the question. yeah, it does not, i don't know how you measure the u.s. declined. i certainly don't see it like that. i don't think that a lot of people in the region see it like that, that the u.s. is a declining power. i think people believe the u.s., as i do, has certain responsibilities. again the united states has been the strong horse only intermittently challenged in that region over some 60 plus years. i don't think that we are less powerful they are now than before. they are certainly some people who would like us to become less powerful, but i don't know how you measure that and i certainly don't believe it. >> just very briefly on egypt free-trade agreement, the problem is that you cannot start
negotiating a free-trade agreement orange would say you should not, the day after the guy who runs against president mubarak is jailed. the message of that to all egyptians is, we don't give a. maybe that shouldn't be the message that is received, but it is the message we thought would have and received. the only thing i would say about decline is i really agree with lee and i would go back to charles krauthammer's line. those who think the united states is positioned to significantly reduced i would say look at iran. the negotiations between iran and the europeans have been taking lace for years and years and have gotten nowhere because the prices of us. and when, though the government of iran is obsessed with the u.k. it is clear that the people of iran are much more in the united states in relations with
the u.s. and the american support for democracy, so at that level i think there has been no decline. >> steve rosen. be my question as to jeff feltman and it is about the israeli-palestinian negotiations the administration has been widely criticized for overreaching when it demanded a complete settlement freeze in israel and then appeared to back down to a degree and it has been said that if put of the mazen out on a lamb etc.. last week, secretary mitchell made another long reach when he seemed to promise the comprehensive peace agreement between the israelis and palestinians in 24 months, something i think is widely questioned, whether it is an obtainable goal. are we creating another lamb
that we and the palestinians will climb out on together and not the able to deliver and then have a problem of our own creation? >> let me make a comment on the soul of an issue first, because the united states policy on settlements is long-standing and rebates this administration and predates the george w. bush administration. the united states government has had the same policy on settlements for a very, very long time. the call for her freeze was consistent with the quartet roadmap that was presented to the palestinians and israelis under the last restoration and it was also not resented as a precondition for negotiations. it was consistent with u.s. policy and we do think that the
israeli settlement moratorium is something significant or ticket early if it has extended out over a longer term which is one reason we think it is in the palestinian interest to have negotiations with the idea that the moratorium will be extended if you have viable negotiations going on over the long-term. i think we all have to be humbled by the experience of decades of trying to sum up with the piece. if we talk about a timeline i think yes we are talking about our aspiration that we need to try to close this up but we are also very very aware of the difficulties. very aware of the history of this, so i wouldn't look at senator mitchell's interview on charlie rose as a "deadline" but an aspirational goal to try to focus our attention, focus our partners attention on getting back to the table and hoping to move forward.
>> i have written and i'd might as well say here too, i think jeff feltman has given the best defense possible of senator mitchell's negotiating record that he really ought to resign because his record is one of failure for a year now particularly starting with this establishing the condition of the total construction freeze including jerusalem, which everybody knows the israeli government is going to accept and had the unfortunate impact of cornering president abbas or to use a different metaphor, putting it out on a limb for which none of us have been able to figure out a way for him to climb down without doing himself damage. i think on this we disagree. >> can i, please? no, i think we do disagree on this, and, i go back to the fact
that a year ago, the gaza war was just ending. and now we are at the point where we are talking about terms of reference with the suicides. i don't want to exaggerate this. this is not saying we are certainly at the negotiating table having wonderful breakthroughs but the fact that in the year you go from what was a very tough military security situation where you had rockets raining down on the israeli civilian population in the israeli occupation to where we were exchanging ideas on terms of reference for renewed talks where you are having arab foreign ministers come to washington to discuss with us how they can support the go shooting process. i think we have gone forward. [inaudible]
there have been periods in the past i think you are aware of where the negotiating levels have not spoken for whatever reason. the gaza with her all is a good example, where the israelis acted unilaterally where the israelis refused to negotiate with the israelis that i did empower the moderates. even out today there are plenty of israeli-palestinian contracts going on. not affect negotiating level but i assure you that there are lots of contacts going on even now. we want to see negotiations start as quickly as possible. your article today, all process, no peace i guess we are afraid no process means or war so we want to get back into the negotiations.
>> thank you. my question to ambassador feltman is, the controversial decision from the dictatorial commission by more than 500, some of them-- is there any american plans to rectify the situation and maybe we can comment on how the united states can provide any sustainable effort if the u.s. has to go back every time to please the president or please the iraqi elections. >> hussein we believe the iraqi election should be inclusive, that there should not be some sort of come to the lyrical process to disqualify candidates. we believe the voters themselves should have the right to pick candidates. some candidates are hats haven't met the criteria of but in general we support inclusive elections.
the iraqi vice president was here last week weekend he heard this from the obama administration officials at the very top on down, about the inclusive sort of elections that we believe would be a credible, fair transparent election process. i think you saw that vice president ivan was very actively engaged over the past couple of days in talking about this, where the u.n., the assistance mission to iraq which is working on assistance with the elections has made it clear to the iraqi's. i think the iraqi's, the iraqi politicians themselves are looking at this in a different way. the risk is that those elections end up, the iraqi stem cells can endorse those elections. that is a very real risk. we believe the iraqi leadership is moving in the right on this issue now. >> hussein can i ask you to elaborate on the question?
i'm not quite sure i understand. speeds i am just questioning the sustainability of the u.s. effort if the u.s. has to intervene in every issue such as the elections of presidents or policing-- my question to ambassador feltman right now and in the issues otherwise in the middle east. >> he i think it is not sustainable. we don't have the manpower in the middle east is not the only region in the world where the united states has a serious, has a vital interest in no i don't tank that kind of effort is sustainable but i think some sort of, i mean i think a general framework is possible and one of the things that, again my general framework would be, my general framework would be to punish enemies and reward friends. reward friends in the region and again i'm not a policymaker so these are the two gentlemen who have a good idea, but, and again
my problem is we haven't, we haven't done enough of that and we haven't done enough, often we haven't done enough of rewarding friends or punishing enemies. >> over here. >> ambassador feltman it caught my attention that you spoke of the need to reassure our iraqi allies. for three weeks in the region, there seems to be almost a month of political elite that the syrians and the saudi seem to be working to undermine maliki in the lead up to the iraqi elections. might ocean to you is where does that leave us with the syrians given a year ago the primary area was in collaboration with the u.s. and syria but where would that leave us with the saudi's? it speaks to a broader notion of how do we deal with those in the
region that are undermining the american strong force? thanks. >> i think, i don't think i'm revealing a state secret here when i say that we have an encouraging under the bush administration as well as the obama administration the saudi's and iraq's other arab neighbors to basically yet with the program, to recognize the fact that iraq is becoming a leading powerhouse in the region again. when you look at iraq 10 years out and you look at the oil contracts that are now being negotiated, when you look at the fact that you have an electoral system that has a history. yes it has some pickups that there is no electoral system there that is developing strong roots. iraq is going to be a strong leader in the region again. we believe that it is in everyone's interest to understand that and to start embracing the iraqi government.
this is not about who is in the government and who is not in the government. it is about the type of future of the gulf region that includes a stable, secure self-reliant iraq and i assure you that the iraqi issues remain on the agenda when we talk to the syrians. if i talk to the syrians, but the non-goes higher i assure you. [laughter] speak and i just add a point there? there is this famous line or a chew story of i think it was kissinger. kissinger says if you believe that and what do you think about the french revolution and joe en-lai says it is too soon to tell. i think there is a lot of truth to that with respect to iraq. ilog people talk about the huge disaster to iraq and i would ask you to come back in jeff feltman 10 years and see if we can agree it is a disaster orix success. one of the things president was
thought about iraq was, that you have to have a successful and ultimately rich arab democracy in the heart of the middle east, a shia democracy would have a huge impact in in the airball band-aid iran. not only do i think that is not yet been proven wrong, compact in 10 and 10 years and it will have a proven right. >> i think that is a very interesting case. i mean, keep in mind that this book and my in my ideas are coming still at the heat of the moment. one of my, one of my main theses is that as hillel was discussing before why i think it is pretty was to look at us, meaning americans, the united states is the cause of most of the problems in that region because we are looking at a region that is very old and problems that predate the event.
a long back historical timeline yeah i think it is probably way too early to figure out how these different things will play out in what he has written interestingly, the invasion of iraq is probably going to have the same sort of, same sort of ramifications as napoleon's invasion of egypt. maybe, maybe not. it is a very long timeline. >> on the question of engagement with syria, i just want to ask about one specific.which was, back in the summer there was the big attack in central baghdad that in it at the foreign ministry, one of the worst attacks and afterwards, while the key was fairly strong in his statement about syrian involvement. as i remember, the white house reaction after that was, this is
something between iraq and syria, kind of distancing. i was just wondering if this the cost of the syrian engagement? it seems like a rather strange reaction for us to have when molly key, who had been very cautious about it blaming syria for everything, a rather strong statement and we kind of said well, that is between those two governments. thanks. >> week, the united states did not want to further complicate the relationship returning baghdad and damascus. but let me say that we continue to use all means to express concern and raise attention to the fact that there are still foreign fighters, terrorists who are exploiting syrian territory to carry out attacks in iraq. the numbers greatly reduced from what it was a couple of years
ago but nevertheless it still is happening and it still is a high irony issue for us with the syrians. prime minister maliki also asked-- after august 19 called for the u.n. to come out and take a look into its own assessment and we were supportive of prime minister maliki's request to have someone from the outside look at the august 19 attack. >> the fellow behind you has the mic and then you are next. he has got the other one, sorry. >> thank you very much. on iran, my name is mohammed from iran.
the rapprochement. >> don't go any further. [laughter] come over here. as long as you have.and as far. >> what a wonderful opportunity. this question is for elliott and jeff feltman. approaching iran, negotiating with iran, i hope you gentlemen and the policymakers have come to understand that this regime is the mother of all time deception, to assimilation and i hope you have come to realize that you will not get anywhere. president obama, whoever gave him the advice to reach the regime and extend a hand to the
clenched fist which is full of iranian led and it is even let here now after the june election, or so called election, full of raw jewel and-- i hope i approaching them and extending a hand, it gives them a legitimacy that they lost, the legitimacy with the iranian people. we have paid with their let, even on our shura day, december the 27th, a week after i'd ayatollah died, 138 evil were gunned down on the streets in tehran alone. you made a mistake with the american administration making a mistake by removing dr. mosaddeq.
now, this time if you just keep silent, quiet, don't extend a hand, don't go she ate, don't give legitimacy, stay on the side of the iranian people, help us to topple this nasty criminal regime and actually you will gain the credibility. we are not confer any kind of help from the united states or the western countries, but keep silent. you have been trying-- alley at the remember during the reagan administration, weapons for hostages, the iran-contra. you remember that. for 30 years you have been trying to reach the government of iran, these mullahs who are the mother of all time deception. they are criminals and it hasn't worked. stay on the side of the iranian people by keeping quiet and
silent, just silent. that is all we want are are new, until we topple this regime. hopefully by june, and hopefully, it will come along, believe me. >> thank yous or. >> we are very determined to do that. >> thank you. >> i think you know mr. feltman. >> thank yous or. >> i need to speak with you and if you could come up with a good policy on how to help us. thank you are a much. >> is there a comment? >> i just want to say, i do agree that it is critical whatever the united states government does, we do not grant legitimacy. even in the eyes of the iranian people or especially in the eyes of the iranian people, that is what i think is worrying about the nuclear negotiations.
i am not suggesting that we break off the p5 bus one talks, but i would go back to the model of the way in which the reagan administration handled the soviet union which is to say it was possible to have negotiations without abandoning the people in the gulags as long as you were willing to speak candidly about the gulags, so the people who were there knew which side you were on. we are going to have negotiations with iran, which i think we probably are not as the ayatollahs don't seem to want it but if we are going to have negotiations with iran it is doubly important even more important than it is today and is quite important today, that we make our moral decision clear. >> i will just repeat something i said earlier. there are a lot of states around the world, a lot of international organizations that just say oh, there must be peace, there must be a peaceful
resolution to this. we all wanted diplomatic resolution that we were seen by many as part of the problem so i wouldn't underestimate the fact is since the president has gone out of his way to try to engage and we have been completely forgot that there is much more international consensus about where the real problem is. >> the last question here. >> i operate under the pseudonym them -- making this is only my second time here at the hudson. i think i will return because your food is just as good as the libertarians. [laughter] >> have you tried the quakers lodge? you will never come back here again. [laughter] >> i am from the exotic middle eastern port town. i have a quick question for you particularly for mr. lee smith. anytime you can produce a look that lets was it altogether as you seem to have done, i want to
congratulate you on that are going to ask you did you come down on one side or the other in retrospect with respect to mr. bush's administration decision to go into iraq, which is obviously heavily criticized in part of the reason that he is no longer-- as much as he used to be but i want to have to do, on one side or the other or did you foretell some of the issues we have had with so many deaths and catastrophes of our economy and all of the other things? the first of all thanks for your kind words in thanks for coming in and joining the lunch. i mean, i think that the world is undeniably in a much better place that sowed-- saddam hussein no longer rules iraq. certainly i could not afford told the different issues that we would run into not just in iraq and around the region and that is what the book is about,
kind of my consideration of what some of the issues are in the region but again i think it was, i don't believe in a scheme of cosmic justice but i do believe that there is a right and wrong and i do believe it was absolutely right to get rid of saddam hussein. i think the world is better place and the middle east is at better place in the iraqi people are in a better place. [applause] >> appropriate and arousing in. you don't have to read the book and it can't hurt, someone available in the lobby for 20 bucks on line or go i want to thank lee were wonderful recitation and our panelists for an extraordinary discussion. ambassadors have three we owe you one. elliott you were great as always and professor subre-when you buy a book we will invite lee smith that to comment on it and i want to thank or vice president phil
ross and thank you for coming. speak coming up next, book tv presents after words, an hour-long program where we invite you sows to interview authors. this week authors and spouses liam cohen and janet langhart cohen discuss their new book, race and reconciliation in america comp i wish and drawn from a conference of the historical impact of racism on american culture. the former u.s. secretary of defense in and the m.a. nominated journalist talk with civil rights activist and u.s. congressman from georgia, john lewis. >> host: thank you aerie much. we are delighted and more than delighted, very pleased to have two wonderful, gifted, smart young people with us.
you are very young. you are much younger than i am. >> guest: we are the same age. [laughter] >> host: thank you janet are good janet cohen and bill cohen, two wonderful people, two wonderful friends. akin 2008, you pull together a very moving conference. you brought it together, journalists, social scientist, people with civil rights backgrounds. i was pleased to be there, to participate, to talk about, dude discuss, to debate the issues raised of by the reconciliation in america. you have prepared a beautiful book, race, reconciliation and america. i stand in peace. it says something about the
distance we have, and the progress we have made but we are not there yet. we have not laid down the burden of race but we are on our way. i would love for us to engage in a conversation, the same way we did back in 2008. janet, how about you my dear? >> guest: i am first of all honored to have the conversation the contributions that u.s. me to this country, to humanity are legend and the contribution you have made to our conference when we had our first conference on race and reconciliation. people are still talking about the message he gave us, so thank you for that. we wanted to do grace and reconciliation and have a conference on the discussion of race in america, because it seems a taboo subject. people don't like to talk about race. in our respective groups we do.
black people talk about it all the time and i'm sure white people talk about it but we never dialogue about it across the color line. i was always aware of the discomfort that white people had in discussing race in mixed groups, and since i was aware of that but not encumbered upon me and bill joined me in making whites more comfortable to talk about it, to create an environment where they could leave their shame if you will and guilds if you will, at the door and we people of color could leave our blame at the door. as you said we have movie stars, civil rights leaders, great humanitarians coming to talk about this subject and it came out in this look that the lens i edited race and reconciliation and america. so that it is shortened for a web site, we call it an acronym
and as i discovered when we got this acronym that it is a wonderful, you to put group of islands or mountains rather in south america. so we are all elevating to that idea as we discuss issues that are often taboo. >> host: janet, i want to come back to you in just a moment and i want you to tell me something about your background, where you grew up, where you were born and where you grew up in how did you become so committed and so dedicated to the issue of race and reconciliation. bill, first of all i really want to thank you or your service, your service in congress, in our government, secretary of defense and all the great work you have done over the years. thank you. >> guest: i have had a great opportunity john.
it was remarkable period of time in my life to have spent some 28 years in elective office and then the last four or over at the pentagon was really the culmination of everything in public service. imho stood in the subject matter for a fur idea friday of reasons. obviously because of janet but i was interested in these issues long before i met janet and i grew up in maine. maybe the widest state in america. >> host: it is a dutiful place. i have visited maine a few times. >> guest: great people. but there are very few black evil in maine, at least very few i saw and those who were in the community had lived on the other side of town. the people said they are okay as long as they "stay in their place" and i knew staying in their placement-- i watch the basketball was very big.
not as big as in indiana but it was very big. in 1947 i went to it all game and there was one black wolf player, bobby nelson. he was the one who really caught my attention because he was so exciting in the and the things he did on the court were just razzle-dazzle enthusiasm and he caught a attention. i had the privilege just a few years later when i was playing on the rams as one of the youngest players to start for the team but i had him in mind and then i had bob talbott, who was one of my classmates was really such a gifted individual and i became very close to him. and then through the basketball, because i would go up to the dow air force base which is a strategic air command base and many black airmen, but most of the ones i saw were on the
basketball court. they allowed to play with them. i was the only white person in the gym with them, so i got to understand people on a personal level and i think all of that contributed to my wanting to narrow the divide he touring blacks and whites in this country. i think he disparity has been so deep historically, the wretched history we have had in this country and the legacies that still live on, and so having met janet just a few years ago, and falling in love with her, to deal with this issue as a partnership, the two of us trying to bring about a reconciliation in this great divide that is getting narrower and narrower. i couldn't help but to give your role in this. when you talk about you couldn't go to a library and roa book when you are a young boy and he went back some years later and signed autographs for your book. that tells you something about
how far we have come. >> host: thank you so much. we all have stories to tell in your power-- story is a very powerful story and i thank you for telling us. sharing stories and telling them over and over again to show the progress we have even how we tear down these areas in these walls. janet, i know you were born in indiana. >> guest: i was born in indianapolis, indiana, a great basketball state. i was born there in 1941. 15 days before the president declared this was the day that will live in infamy shortly after pearl harbor had been struck. it was the days of apartheid in america. a lot of people don't like to say it that way. we want to say jim crow, segregated. i lived in segregated areas. my father fought in world war ii, and he fought in patton's army. when he came home, his country
we paid repaid him with a seat on the back of the bus but the beautiful thing about this country john, is that i, the daughter of that soldier, could grow up and marry the secretary of defense, so we have a wonderful country. i often say when i talk about race, i want to give my country some credit as i love her, despite her faults and because of her promise center progress. >> host: i appreciate that. it is amazing to me the country that we live in is such a wonderful place. we have made so much progress but there is still a great deal of progress to be made. this conference took place in july? and that was before the election. could the two of you, based on the conference, just during the conference, do you have a sense
that we were about to take this great leap? >> guest: i knew mr. obama was running and he was a promising candidate that in my wildest dreams, you have to think in john u.s. well we corrupt in a different america than the america today. the idea that we would never have it lacked and as president of the united states was incredible to me. it was almost the same as thinking of having a geordie rule in south africa and mr. mandela becoming free and becoming president of south africa. these are two very remote possibilities in my mind and the fact that he is president i am still pinching myself in the time we did this conference of course the campaign was going and he was looking good in the polls. but i knew that perhaps he would never be able to really confront the issue of race and racism, so bill and i decided to do it because once we learned that he had gotten secret service
protection, long before he was nominated, just when he announced he was a candidate, that was the legacy i remember of our country and as he was moving closer to realizing the dream, i still thought he wouldn't be able to talk about it. did you feel that way? >> guest: i think the irony was that he is a black and had to campaign on the basis that he transcended race and i kept saying, why does he have to transcend race? wise and that the responsibility of all of us who have had a history of imposing slavery, jim crow, segregation, rampant discrimination. why was it his responsibility to transcend race? he had that are in and apparently he carried the satisfaction of the overwhelming majority, so it was surprising enough sense but i at least felt that he had unrestricted where he couldn't talk openly about